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How to Spot Fake Baltic Amber

Is my amber jewellery genuine? Find out how you can know for sure.

First Things First…

Purchasing Baltic amber from reputable suppliers (like Ertisun) is the most important step in ensuring the quality of your amber jewellery. I have personally been in the Baltic amber business for many years and have positive client evaluations to prove it.

Many fake amber merchants set up shop for a short time, sell a large number of products, collect the money from consumers, then close up shop or relocate so that they cannot be traced. This is a terrible reality, particularly in the case of certain disreputable online businesses. To avoid these types of online scams, always look for customer reviews and testimonials. If you can’t find any, stay away!

You can read what my satisfied customers have to say about me here.

How to Tell If Baltic Amber is Real or Fake…

At present, the jewellery market is inundated with fake Baltic amber. In this article, I will provide an overview of the most common signs of fake Baltic amber.

Fake Baltic amber is often produced using copal, glass, phenolic resins, celluloid, and plastic. These can imitate the appearance of natural amber despite being fake.

Imitation Materials

Copal

Copal (young amber), often incorrectly referred to as Baltic amber, is actually extremely young tree resin (1000 – 1 million years old). True Baltic amber, on the other hand, is approximately 4 million years old. Natural inclusions (plant parts, insects, etc.) can certainly occur in copal, but they are often manufactured by producers. Copal pieces can be seen bearing insects that are much too large and in far too perfect of condition to be naturally occurring. This young resin also melts at a relatively low temperature (less than 150 degrees Celsius).

Glass

Glass can be easily distinguished from amber due to its hardness and resistance to being scratched by metal. Unlike amber, glass is entirely fireproof and will not burn, melt, or release any odor when heated. Glass will also feel slightly cool to the touch, unlike amber.

Phenolic Resin

Phenolic resin is often present in fake amber beads. It is hard to spot the differences between these imitation beads and genuine amber; however, when heated, phenolic resin will not release the distinctive fragrance of pine-tree resin that distinguishes Baltic amber from other types of amber.

Cellulose Nitrate

Cellulose nitrate is often yellow and hazy in appearance. From a distance, it can be difficult to distinguish from authentic amber. However, celluloid is a more solid than amber and is less flammable. When it has been heated, it will release the stench of burned plastic.

Plastics

Much artificial amber and inclusions are made from plastics (polyester, polystyrene). These plastic beads are often suspiciously perfect and round, and they lack any of the unique features that distinguish genuine amber beads. The colours of these beads are also uniform, which is not the case with genuine amber beads. When fake Baltic amber made from plastic is heated, it will release the stench of burned plastic.

Techniques for Spotting Fake Baltic Amber

Smell Test

Because genuine amber has such a distinct scent, scent tests are the most effective method for identifying fake Baltic amber. While genuine Baltic amber diffuses pine-tree resin’s unique, delicate scent when heated, materials used to produce fakes will release the smell of burned plastic. To me, genuine amber smells of “salty trees.”

Test with a Hot Needle

A more specific take on the smell test, the hot needle test is probably the most effective of the available tests. Insert a hot needle into a discrete location of the amber piece (the hole of a drilled bead, for example). If you can detect the distinct smell of pine-tree resin, then you have discovered genuine Baltic amber.

Test with a Rub

If heating by other means is not an option, the indicative amber fragrance may be obtained by rubbing genuine amber vigorously with a finger or cloth. Due to the difficulty of heating amber (particularly when polished) to the necessary temperature, this method will require a very strong hand. The easiest way of applying this method is to massage the piece of amber into the palm of your hand.

Acetone Test (or acetone sensitivity test)

Apply a few drops of acetone (fingernail polish remover) or alcohol onto the surface of your item to remove any polish. This will not harm genuine amber. If the surface gets sticky, or if the fluid takes on the golden honey colour of the material, then what you are holding is certainly not real Baltic amber. Baltic amber is entirely unaffected by solvents.

Test with Salt Water

This test is highly effective and simple to administer. In a dish, combine two cups of warm water and a quarter cup of salt, stirring constantly until the salt is fully dissolved. Then, drop the amber piece into the solution and stir well. A piece of genuine Baltic amber will float. If your piece of amber does not float, then it is fake Baltic amber.

Test for Ultraviolet Light

The benefit of this test is that you can test a large amount of amber at one time. A UV light will be required for this task. The colour of amber changes to a sort of blue-green when exposed to ultraviolet light. Therefore, if when exposed to UV light, your amber does not bear a blue-green hue, then it is sadly not genuine Baltic amber.

IR-spectroscopy

This is the most efficient scientific technique for distinguishing between resins on the market. The Baltic amber shoulder is a section of the infrared spectrum that distinguishes Baltic amber from other types of amber. Ensure you do not wear them in the shower, swimming pool, etc., and do not use any polishing agents.

Price

Finally, price is the single most important indication of authenticity of Baltic amber. If the amber you are considering buying is very inexpensive, it is most likely fake.

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